This week I had the pleasure of attending two events in London organised by EWIF (Encouraging Women into Franchising) – a UK based not-for-profit organisation with the primary focus of supporting women who are looking for a route into the franchise industry, whether they be franchisors or franchisees.
In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of women business owners generally – in the USA more than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, and female-owned businesses now account for 39% of all privately held firms. (Statistics from the American Express OPEN Report “The State of Women-Owned Businesses 2017”).
And franchise experts report a rising trend in women entering the world of franchising. In the UK women now account for nearly 25% of franchisees and the International Franchise Association is seeing a similar shift. Women owned 27 percent of franchise locations in 2017, it says, compared with 20.5 percent in 2007 – and that doesn’t include another 17% of the population where men and women operate franchises together as partners. Between 2011 and 2017, female franchise ownership jumped by 83 percent, while male ownership only increased 13 percent, according to FranNet, the US based franchise consultancy.
So what is it about the world of franchising that holds such an appeal to a skyrocketing number of female business owners?
One common held belief is that many women are attracted to franchise opportunities in part due to skill sets and personality traits. Female business owners tend often to be more financially cautious and therefore the lesser element of financial risk often associated with buying into a franchise of an already well established brand may have significant appeal over starting up a business from scratch.
Women generally have strong communication skills, are good networkers and take a collaborative approach to working. These are traits which not only make them excellent franchisees with the key skills to engage their target market and grow their businesses, but which also mean that women are likely to be drawn to the idea of joining an established franchise network and working as part of a team, being in business for themselves but not by themselves.
In addition, an increasing number of women are seeking flexible careers outside of the traditional nine to five role. Franchising is seen as a route to building a flexible business around family life or other caring commitments, with the support of the franchisor and management team. The speed at which a franchisee is able to be up and running with the new business as it is a tried and tested business model is also therefore an appealing factor.
The growth in the number of female franchisees is also likely to be attributable to the wider variety of business sectors entering the franchise world, particularly those which tend to attract women. I previously wrote about thefranchising boom in the children’s activity industry – an industry which certainly does currently attract more female than male franchisees. Similarly domestic and caring based businesses are taking up an increasing share of the franchise market and are also historically more likely to attract female franchisees. In addition, it is considered to be the case that women may often choose a business based on their own interests or it’s “purpose” rather than simply on financial prospects alone – and again there are an increasing number of franchises available covering areas such as art, food and drink, tutoring and sports. Many female franchisees will report that the reason they first investigated their particular franchise opportunity was because they were attracted by the product or service.
One other factor must be the emergence of networks and schemes specifically set up to encourage women into franchising such as EWIF, the IFA’s Women’s Franchise Network, and the British Franchise Association’s Women into Franchising initiative. Networks and initiatives such as this have not only raised awareness of franchising amongst women generally, but have resulted in a trend towards more franchisors specifically targeting women in their franchise marketing.
Whatever the aims and ambitions for her venture a female entrepreneur may have, it is clear that very nature of franchising really can lend itself to the way in which many women want to set up and run a business – with a network of fellow franchisees and support from the franchisor. With this female focused trend only set to continue, it will be interesting to see how franchisors will not only adapt their franchise marketing methods, but also if many will also take steps to adapt their franchise models and processes to attract more women into their businesses,
Fiona Simpson is the Founder and MD of ARTventurers, a UK based children’s art and creative play franchise and was named Woman Franchisor of the Year in the UK EWIF Awards 2018.